[R-G] Monbiot: Bob Geldof - And still he stays silent
info at cinox.demon.co.uk
Tue Sep 6 05:28:42 MDT 2005
Tuesday September 6, 2005
The Guardian (UK)
And still he stays silent
By hailing the failure of this summer's G8 summit as a success, Bob Geldof
has betrayed the poor of Africa
Two months have not elapsed since the G8 summit, and already almost
everything has turned to ashes. Even the crustiest sceptics have been
shocked by the speed with which its promises have been broken.
It is true that they didn't amount to much. The World Development Movement
described the agreement as "a disaster for the world's poor". ActionAid
complained that "the G8 have completely failed to deliver trade justice".
Christian Aid called July 8 "a sad day for poor people in Africa and all
over the world". Oxfam lamented that "neither the necessary sense of urgency
nor the historic potential of Gleneagles was grasped by the G8". But one man
had a different view. Bob Geldof, who organised the Live 8 events, announced
that "a great justice has been done ... On aid, 10 out of 10; on debt, eight
out of 10 ... Mission accomplished frankly."
Had he not signed off like this, had he not gone on to describe a South
African campaigner who had criticised the deal as "a disgrace", Geldof could
have walked away from the summit unencumbered by further responsibility. He
could have spent the rest of his life on holiday, and no one would have
minded. But it was because he gave the G8 his seal of approval, because he
told us, in effect, that we could all go home and stop worrying about
Africa, that he now has a responsibility to speak out.
The uses to which a Geldof can be put are limited. Before the summit he was
seen by campaigners as naive, ill-informed and unaccountable. But he can
make public statements with the potential to embarrass politicians. While
they don't usually rise above the "give us your focking money" level, they
do have the effect of capturing the attention of the press. But though
almost everything he said he was fighting for has fallen apart, he has yet
to tell the public.
Immediately after the summit, as the world's attention shifted to the London
bombs, Germany and Italy announced that they might not be able to meet the
commitments they had just made, due to "budgetary constraints". A week
later, on July 15, the World Development Movement obtained leaked documents
showing that four of the IMF's European directors were trying to overturn
the G8's debt deal. Four days after that, Gordon Brown dropped a bombshell.
He admitted that the aid package the G8 leaders had promised "includes the
numbers for debt relief". The extra money they had promised for aid and the
extra money they had promised for debt relief were in fact one and the same.
Nine days after that, on July 28, the United States, which had appeared to
give some ground at Gleneagles, announced a pact with Australia, China and
India to undermine the Kyoto protocol on climate change. On August 2, leaked
documents from the World Bank showed that the G8 had not in fact granted
100% debt relief to 18 countries, but had promised enough money only to
write off their repayments for the next three years. On August 3, the United
Nations revealed that only one-third of the money needed for famine relief
in Niger and 14% of the money needed by Mali had been pledged by the rich
nations. Some 5 million people in the western Sahel remained at risk of
Two weeks ago, we discovered that John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the
United Nations, had proposed 750 amendments to the agreement that is meant
to be concluded at next week's UN summit. He was, in effect, striking out
the millennium development goals on health, education and poverty relief,
which the UN set in 2000. Yesterday, ActionAid released a report showing
that the first of these goals - equal access to schooling for boys and girls
by 2005 - has been missed in over 70 countries. "Africa," it found, "is
currently projected to miss every goal." There is so little resolve at the
UN to do anything about it that the summit could deliver "a worse outcome
than the situation before the G8". Yet Geldof remains silent.
'We are very critical of what Bob Geldof did during the G8 Summit," Demba
Moussa Dembele of the African Forum on Alternatives tells me. "He did it for
his self-promotion. This is why he marginalised African singers, putting the
limelight on himself and Bono, rather than on the issues. The objectives of
the whole Live 8 campaign had little to do with poverty reduction in Africa.
It was a scheme intended to project Geldof and Blair as humanitarian figures
coming to the rescue of 'poor and helpless' Africans."
"Right from the beginning," says Kofi Mawuli Klu of the Forum of African
Human Rights Defenders, "he has acted in his own selfish interests. It was
all about self-promotion, about usurping the place of Africans. His message
was 'shut up and watch me'. Without even understanding the root causes of
the problems, he used his role to drown the voices of the African people and
replace them with his own. There are many knowledgeable people - African and
non-African - who could have advised him, but he has been on his own,
I have heard similar sentiments from every African campaigner I have spoken
to. Bob Geldof is beginning to look like Mother Teresa or Joy Adamson. To
the corporate press, and therefore to most of the public, he is a saint.
Among those who know something about the issues, he is detested. Those other
tabloid saints appeared to recognise that if they rattled the cages of the
powerful, the newspapers upon which their public regard depended would turn
against them. When there was a conflict between their public image and their
cause, the image won. It seems to me that Geldof has played the same game.
He seized a campaign that commanded great public enthusiasm, that had the
potential to gravely embarrass Tony Blair and George Bush. He asked us to
focus not on the harm the G8 leaders were doing, but on the help they might
give. When they failed to deliver, he praised them anyway. His endorsement
and the public forgetfulness it prompted helped license them to start
reversing their commitments. When they did so, he said nothing. This looks
to me like more than just political naivety. It looks as if he is working
for the other side.
I don't mean that this is what he intended - or intends - to do. I mean that
he came to identify with the people he was supposed to be lobbying. By
ensuring that the campaign was as much about him as about Africa, he ensured
that if they failed, he failed. He needed a story with a happy ending.
There is just one thing Geldof can now do for Africa. This is to announce
that his optimism was misplaced, that the mission was not accomplished, that
the struggle for justice is as urgent as ever. But while he holds his
tongue, he will remain the man who betrayed the poor.
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